Wisconsin-Illinois: Rematch Crucial for Both Squads
When Wisconsin and Illinois meet for the second time in a week next Friday afternoon, the game's implications for both teams are just as important as Sunday afternoon's matchup.
On Sunday, the Badgers thoroughly dominated the Illini on their Senior Day, possibly sending them to the NIT in the process. Behind Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor's 20 points, Wisconsin gave Illinois their 13th loss of the year and seriously jeopardized the Illini's chances of making it into the field of 65 for the NCAA Tournament.
For their part, Wisconsin notched their 23rd win of the year and put themselves in great position to get a No. 4 seed in the Big Dance.
But when the two teams meet again in the Big Ten Tournament, the game will mean just as much as Sunday's meeting.
Illinois will still be playing for a berth to the Big Dance.
Wisconsin will still be playing to improve their tournament seed.
So you can definitely expect yet another classic game in the Wisconsin-Illinois border battle.
For Wisconsin, the keys to the game are the same. Establish an inside presence with Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil, make their threes, and keep the tempo slow and steady.
In Sunday's 15-point win, the Badgers were successful in all three. Leuer had a field day working the post, Taylor hit three of Wisconsin's seven three-pointers, and the Badger "D" held Illinois' offense, averaging 71 points a game, to 57 points on only 35 percent shooting.
Simply put, playing in front of 16,000 screaming, orange-clad fans desperate for a win, Wisconsin's victory over Illinois was one of their most impressive of the year. Wisconsin has always had trouble in Champaign's Assembly Hall, and for them to so thoroughly dominate an Illini team that needed this game is truly a testament to how this team is playing right now.
That said, it isn't easy playing a team twice in a row. Who knows how much Illinois will adjust to Wisconsin's style of play and find flaws to expose?
And if any team has shown that it is able to do that, it's the Illini. After all, Wisconsin's only home loss of the year came a month ago to this very same Illinois squad.
Granted, the Badgers were without Jon Leuer at that point, and Demetri McCamey had an unbelievable game, scoring 27 points and almost single-handedly leading the Illini to victory.
Leuer is back and showing he's in prime form, while Bo Ryan has obviously found a game plan that stifles McCamey's offensive prowess (only 11 points Sunday).
But as any college basketball fan knows, tournament time brings out the best in teams, especially those in dire need of wins. Illinois is obviously a very talented team, given the fact that they've beaten teams like Clemson, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.
A win over Illinois would put the Badgers in great shape for tournament seeding, and if they can manage to pull off another one in the semifinal round, they could be looking at a No. 3 seed.
All that can be said for sure is the Canseco Fieldhouse is going to see some good basketball come 2:25 p.m. ET Friday afternoon.
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